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A Guide to Wetlands Management & Development

Wetland Conservation Provisions of the Farm Bill

Swampbuster helps preserve the environmental functions and values of wetlands, including flood control, sediment control, groundwater recharge, water quality, wildlife habitat, recreation, and esthetics.

The 1996 Farm Bill changed Swampbuster to give producers greater flexibility to comply with wetland conservation requirements and to make wetlands more valuable and functional. The new Farm bill changed the following Swampbuster provisions:

Wetland Determinations

Upon request, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will determine if a producer's land has areas subject to Swampbuster. The agency maintains a list of the plants and combinations of soils and plants found in wetlands and uses these technical tools, along with the hydrology of the area, to conduct determinations. These determinations stay in effect as long as the land is used for agricultural purposes (unless a violation occurs) or until the producer requests a review due to natural events. NRCS certifies previous wetland determinations upon request.

Mitigation (offsetting losses)

Mitigation is compensation through wetland restoration, enhancement, or creation for functions and values that are lost on a converted wetland. Landowners have more opportunities to work with USDA, conservation districts, or others to choose the best ways to mitigate wetlands.

Wetland Conservation Provisions of the Farm Bill There are more options for mitigation. These options include the kinds and locations of restoration, enhancement, or creation activities that maintain a wetland's functions and values.

Landowners who want to convert or alter wetlands may enhance existing wetlands, restore former wetlands, or create new wetlands to offset functions and values that are lost form conversions or alterations.

Wetland conversions authorized by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act will be accepted if the conversion activities were properly mitigated.

"Minimal Effect" Determination

Practices that alter wetlands can now be put on a "fast track" for approval if NRCS determines that a planned activity is on the list of "categorical minimal effects." Activities on this list have an insignificant impact on the functions and values of the landowners wetland and other wetlands in the area.

Maintaining USDA Program Eligibility

To maintain eligibility, participants must certify that they have not produced crops on converted wetlands after December 23, 1985, and did not convert a wetland after November 28, 1990, to make agricultural production possible.

If Swampbuster is violated, USDA farm program benefits may be lost. If participants produce a crop on a converted wetland, they may lose benefits for that year. If participants convert a wetland after November 28, 1990, they risk loss of benefits for the year the conversion took place, and for the years that follow until the wetland's functions and values are restored.

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